Mini-Novella-Review: The Black Tides of Heaven (Tensorate #1) – J.Y. Yang

33099588Verdict: Immersive world building, interesting social structure, focus on sibling relationships = fantasy I adore.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Date read: March 31st, 2018

Published by tor.com, September 2017

Find it on Goodreads.

Mokoya and Akeha, the twin children of the Protector, were sold to the Grand Monastery as children. While Mokoya developed her strange prophetic gift, Akeha was always the one who could see the strings that moved adults to action. While his sister received visions of what would be, Akeha realized what could be. What’s more, he saw the sickness at the heart of his mother’s Protectorate.

A rebellion is growing. The Machinists discover new levers to move the world every day, while the Tensors fight to put them down and preserve the power of the state. Unwilling to continue to play a pawn in his mother’s twisted schemes, Akeha leaves the Tensorate behind and falls in with the rebels. But every step Akeha takes towards the Machinists is a step away from his sister Mokoya. Can Akeha find peace without shattering the bond he shares with his twin sister?

This short little novella manages to tick a lot of my boxes: sociological worldbuilding, a focus on sibling relationships, interesting social structures, musings on gender, and a language that just transported me along.

This book focusses on Mokoya and Akeha, twin children of the ruler of their country, how they are used as pawns in their mothers power machinations but also how they find their agency in a world that does not want to give them any. While Mokoya develops rare prophetic powers their sibling Akeha is always in their shadows and will have to find their own place in the world.

Constricted by the length conventions of novellas, the worldbuilding obviously cannot be as intricately imagined as other works, but I actually thought this worked in the book’s favour. I had the impression that there was more to the world than we were shown and I loved that. The world felt lived in in the way J.Y. Yang described it and used it as their background noise to what was obviously at the core of their work: musings on gender and love and sibling relationships. These relationships were by far my favourite part of the book and I cannot wait where Mokoya and Akeha’s story goes next.

First sentence: “Head Abbot Sung of the Grand Monastery did not know it yet, but this night would change the course of all his days.”

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